Great stage performers usually begin with someone telling them they have real talent and can go far in life if they make use of it.

That’s what happened to local comedian Dre West when he was in college and was struggling to find a job.

“I was flat broke,” he said. “I never had anything to offer anybody. But I still had groups of five to 10 people coming to see me at a time, and I didn’t realize what it was, and it took my roommate to really sit me down and tell me, you have a gift where you make people laugh.”

Since then West has gone on to make a living performing stand-up at local venues like The Idiot Box in Greensboro. It was there at a competition that he met fellow comedian Jiwan Kapp who he bonded with, and together they started their production company Goof Camp in February.

Since then they have been hosting open mic nights to give aspiring comedians a chance to shine.

They have also produced a series of online videos, which mock things like the evening news and customer service, the latter of which was inspired by Kapp’s daytime job as a customer service representative for the Verizon call center in McLeansville.

“Pretty much everything is real life and I just put a twist to it,” he said.

Both comedians said they are inspired from big names on TV, but try not to copy anyone.

“I study it, but you just look at little things like stage presence or how many times you talk to the crowd and exactly how they light up their stage,” Kapp said.

His favorite comedians include Rickey Smiley, Katt Williams and Anthony Chico Bean.

West still gets nervous before he goes out on stage, but he says it’s normal for anyone in comedy to feel this way because it shows they care about how they are perceived by the audience. He encourages aspiring comedians not to be afraid of bombing onstage and said practice is the only way to get better.

“The iPhone 5, that wasn’t Steve Jobs’ first creation,” he said. “It takes a lot of trial and error, just testing things out. It’s the economy of words.” !